Amanda and I met on the first day of Grade 9 Drama class at St. Elizabeth Catholic High School in Thornhill. We sat across from one another in the introductory circle. During high school drama class, we played opposite of one another in scene studies of Lysistrata, Private Lives, and in productions like Tony and Tina’s Wedding, and Guys and Dolls. We became best friends, and danced Prom King-ish and Prom Queen-ish at our highschool prom.
Amanda and I both grew up in a Catholic and Italian-Canadian world. We were both religious as kids: she was an alter-person, and I dreamed of being a priest when I was seven years old. That changed for both of us quickly. And, for many reasons, both Amanda and I felt like outsiders in our respective communities. This is partly where “madonnanera” comes from: the Black Madonna, a Catholic icon, and in Italy, the patron saint of queers and outsiders.
When we met in Fall of 2015 in my parents basement to begin a creation process for BODY SO FLUORESCENT, we were both entering into a very new relationship. Yes we performed together, we partied together, we cried together: but we had never created together before. I remember us making a list of what we wanted the process to be like, what we didn’t want the process to be like, our hopes, and our fears.
Fast forward to last night: five years later, global pandemic, the American elections never end. We meet on Zoom, a platform neither of us knew about until this year. We have an opportunity to talk about the piece again. Each time we have this opportunity, we step into so many wells. The conversation last night covered the more sinister moments of the play. We talked about blackface, did a bit of research on minstrelsy, spoke about the cake-walk, camp, drag race, and the appropriation of language and turns of phrases in white hetero pop culture. We talked about floating heads: in the play, there is a moment where a tight-spot appears on Amanda’s face as her character is having an anxiety attack in the club. Is there an opportunity to use projections to summon some of the more sinister ghosts in the play? Floating heads appearing? (We’re still coming down from Halloween, and a Zoom horror movie is definitely in production right now).
This time to talk is vital. We’ve spent four years slapping this piece together-- a really useful exercise in getting something on its feet, making decisions, and “do now, think later.” But to have time to walk through some of the doors in the play, and explore the room in more detail allows us to share a deeper and more visceral production when we’re ready to come together again. We agree to come to next week’s meeting with more research on the topics listed above.
We also decide to create a Pinterest board, and each week for the rest of our residency, we will both be doing some image research around the world of Lights, Set, and Costume. By the time theatres are open again, our hope is that we’re ready to go with robust dramaturgical research as well as image research for designers. We also expect to have a more intimate relationship with the complex relationships between characters in our piece. We look forward to sharing these images within this blog, and bring you into our journey.
This week, hours before rehearsal, David had a family emergency and we almost had to cancel our rehearsal. David’s dog was sick and though I was concerned for the dog and David, another voice in my head said, “Well, I wouldn’t mind if we reschedule for another evening this week.” I was cozy in my home and I had just eaten an amazing Israeli dinner and I was feeling full and sleepy and unmotivated.
But then David called, said the dog was okay and he could meet me within the hour. I cheered for the health of the beloved companion and sighed a deep huff for the pants I had to throw on before heading to the studio.
After our session, I was immensely grateful for David and his ability to maintain his motivation and encourage it in me. Sometimes resistance surges through my blood and bones in ways I feel I cannot overcome. Submitting to the slimy, warm tentacles of the sea monster that is resistance, seems like the best option in the moment. Especially when the threat of winter’s icy hand grabs my tit.
I gave myself a swift ghost-slap in the face and I was reminded of how precious and RARE this time is. Geez, just last week I was praising the gift of studio-time and here we are, week two, and I’m already taking you for granted, my sweet canvas.
This week, David led me through a visual/physical exploration in an effort to unearth more of the history of the friendship between the two characters whose relationship ends during an evening out at the club. With my eyes closed, I moved across the space while David directed me to both observe the images of the characters, and then inhabit them.
This process was extremely informative for the development of the story and also brought on a whole porter-potty of thoughts to the forefront of my mind: I haven’t been with these characters since June of 2019. I mean, sure, we did create the short film this year however, in the film adaption I play one of the several characters that tell this story. Oh my goodness, my back hurts. Would I have even been capable of performing a one hour solo show this month? I feel like an amateur. My jeans are digging into my belly.
I couldn’t find my breath or ground my voice. I felt hot and exposed. Even though it was just my best friend and I in the room.
HOW EXHILARATING it is to know that I am still challenged within the process of creation. My imagination is still wild, littered with insecurity and here I am mining it for sapphires.
DAVID as a DIRECTOR.
It always seems as if David can jump into the director’s mindset anytime, anyplace. His brain is always searching and seeing things I cannot fathom. As our creative partnership began to flower, I would call our duo the mastermind and the executioner. There are so many moments I am in awe of (and turned on by) David’s skill at finding clarity in whatever is happening in front of him. To see the world like this and to be able to communicate so efficiently as to what he is seeing, looking for and guiding me towards, is a strength I hope David gets to flex for the rest if his waking life. He’s like… really good at it. Like sometimes I’m jealous. It just seems to come so easily to him.
We have dreams to see what form this show takes next. Feature Film? A 10-episode mini-series? This week we have been reintroduced to our characters and we are speaking to them: Something happened with Gary. Was he hurt? His best friend Desiree is the only person in his life that accepts him and takes care of him while he lifts her up on a pedestal and treats her like a queen. Desiree is bothered by something in Gary she can’t quite put her finger on. What happened to you two? Was your loving bond not enough to save your friendship after the fight that night at the club?
Join us next week as we continue along this pebbled process path...